Carter opens rights centre in HK

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 December, 2011, 12:00am

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Former US president and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Jimmy Carter opened a new branch of his global non-profit organisation for human rights and democracy at Baptist University yesterday.

With the latest addition to the Carter Center network, he hopes to make a further impact in China and help Hong Kong as it moves towards universal suffrage.

'This will be a new part of the life of the Carter Center, expanding our influence and strengthening what we know, not only about Hong Kong but also mainland China,' Carter said.

'[The initiative] is an avenue of information that would be very valuable to us that we couldn't get anywhere else. I would hope when Hong Kong is able to elect its own political leader that the Carter Center might play a role. If we are invited to Hong Kong to help monitor the elections, we'd be very glad to come.'

The university would help by researching how the city might ease into universal suffrage, said dean of communication Zhao Xinshu. Zhao said he expected Baptist University to play a role similar to a think tank.

Besides Hong Kong, the centre will also focus on China's relations with the US and African countries, and on assistance for people with mental health problems or intellectual disabilities.

The university would provide research and content for projects such as Sinoafrica.org, which is a Carter Center website on Sino-African relations that seeks to give credible information about China's involvement in the continent.

'What we see is around three full-time Carter Center staff and the collaboration of faculty members and students,' Zhao said.

The co-operation between the two is not new. In the past decade, the university has helped the Carter Center with research on village elections and health issues on the mainland.

Fund-raising efforts are under way. Organisers have yet to raise the several million Hong Kong dollars per year they estimate it will cost to run the programme.

The university hoped Carter's support would encourage donors.

The Carter Center, which was established in 1982 at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, works to advance human rights, global health care and conflict resolution, and to aid fledgling democracies by providing support such as election monitoring.

The Bapist University Initiative is the centre's first overseas institutional tie-up.